Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

rison with wbich all the temporal interests of men are as the small dust of the balance, weighed against the everlasting mountains. Yet these are the great matters about which Ministers of the Gospel are primarily and constantly conversant. The grand object of their commission is to turn men from darkness to light; from satan to God; from pollution, condemnation and misery, to purity, pardon and happiness; and finally to the enjoyment of an incorruptible crown, an undefiled inheritance, an excecding and eternal weight of glory in the heavens.

It might be supposed, indeed, that a system so pure, reasonable and glorious as the Gospel of Jesus Christ, when once made known, would always be found to work its own way in the world, without the efforts of the living teacher to urge it on the it. tention and the consciences of men. But the word of God gives us no warrant to expect such a result, and all experience is equally against it. The carnal mind is enmity against God. The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; they are foolishness unto him. So that, left to himself, no one would embrace or obey the Gospel. To say nothing, therefore, of the unnumbered millions of our world's population, who have never beard the Gospel, and who can never be expected to hear it “ without preachers,” Ministers may be said to be indispensable for maintaining the power of the Gospel, even where it is already established. To keep alive religion in the world; to prevent christian knowledge, publick worship, the Sabbath, and the various ordinances of social piety from utterly per

B

ishing among men; in short, to preserve those who have enjoyed christianity from relapsing into real heathenism, it is necessary that ministers of religion be constantly employed to rouse men to a sense of their condition. It is necessary not only that the people be furnished with the written Word, but also with the living teacher, who shall, from sabbath to sabbath, and from house to house, bring their minds, if I may so express it, into contact with that Word, and constrain them to give it their serious and practical attention. It is necessary that they be called together, instructed warned, entreated, conjured, again and again, day by day, to attend to the things which belong to their peace. For nearly eighteen centuries, the standing means both of maintaining and extending the knowledge of Christ and his salvation in the world, has been the preaching of the Gospel. And without the use of this divine ordinance still, we have no reason to expect either that sinners will be converted, or saints cdified and comforted. It is not, of course, meant to be intimated, either that no conversion is ever effected but by means of the authorized ministry; or that this ministry is ever made effectual by any virtue or power of its own. But the position meant to be maintained is, that God, in his sovereign wisdom, hath appointed and promised by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe : that consequently, on the one hand, where the Gospel is not preached, we have no reason to expect that the work of conversion and salvation will, to any extent, go forward ; and that, on the other, where it is faithfully and ably dispensed, it will ge

MINISTRY.

nerally be accompanied in' a greater or less degree with a sanctifying and saving power.

Now, if these things be so, then it follows that the best interests of the community, and especially the vital interests of the church of God,-her orthodoxy, purity, life, peace, and enlargement, may be said to be suSPENDED ON THE CHARACTER OF HER

Where there are no ministers, it is obvious that there can be no church, no organized, visible christianity. And where there is an existing ministry, it is equally evident that the church must, from the nature of things, bear the same character with those who are the appointed medium for conveying to her the aliment on which she lives, and the principles by which she is guided. If men be either not instructed at all, or taught erroneously, the consequences may be equally fatal. If the blind lead the blind, we know what infinite wisdom has told us will ensue. None under the name of ministers can hope to be instrumental in promoting the true welfare of men, but those who have both the ability and the disposition to lead them in the right way. If they be, generally, enlightened, fervently pious, and really faithful, not only in preaching the pure Gospel, but also in the discharge of all their public and private duties; true religion both in principle and practice, will be extensively understood, valued, and prevalent. But if, on the contrary, they be as a body, ignorant, unfaithful, erroneous in doctrine, or corrupt in practise ; if they be proud, ambitious, worldly-minded, contentious, and negligent of the best interests of men; real religion

will as certainly be despised and deine, as any aecessary effect wiil result from the presence of its cause. Nay, only let micisiers be indolent, and forgetful of the great end and cuties of their office, and spiritual desolation and death will as assuredly reign around them, as darkness will ensue in the absence of the solar rays. In short, if human nature be such as the Bible represents it,--earthly, sensual, proud, selfish, and backward to all that is spritually good ; if no other remedy than that which the Gospel furnishes, be either adapted or effcctual to the healing of our moral disease; and it all scripture and all experience teach us that this remedy cannot be expected to display its healing power, any further than it is unremittingly exhibited and applied, by those who are appointed to execute this holy and benevolent office; then nothing can be plainer than that, if they be essentially deficient, either in orthodoxy, skill or fidelity, the moral pestilence which they are commissioned to cure, must rage with uncontrouled fury. It would require a constant course of miracles to prevent consequences the most disastrous from covering the face of society.

When we consider, moreover, that the publick preaching of the Gospel is almost the only means of instruction in morals and religion which a large portion of mankind enjoy; when we reflect that the minds of men, if not occupied with truth and holiness, will be unavoidably occupied with falsehood, with superstition, and with numberless forms of corruption ; and when we remember, too, that the eyes of all, enemies as well as friends, are habitually

turned toward ministers of religion, either for the purpose of imitating their example, or of deriving from their delinquencies encouragement in infidelity and sin ;—when these things are considered, surely it is not easy to overrate the importance of the sacred office to all the best interests of the church, and of mankind. Surely, it is of unspeakable, nay of infinite moment, that the man who undertakes to instruct his fellow men in the things of God, and salvation ; who is, as it were, their mouth in speaking to God, and the mouth of God in speaking to them; who dispenses the sacraments to them and their children; who administers instruction and consolation to the sick and the dying; who undertakes, in a word, to be the teacher, the counsellor and the guide of his fellow sinners, in seeking temporal and eternal happiness ;- surely it is of infinite importance that he who is charged with these high duties, should be wise, holy, faithful, diligent, self-denied, and exemplary. On his character and conduct, the interests of eternity as well as of time, are every hour suspended. A minister of religion cannot be a neutral or indifferent member of society. He will be a blessing or a curse wherever he is. And a blessing or a curse, in most cases, proportioned to the degree in which he is pious and faithful, or the reverse.

II. Let us next attend to some of the STATEMENTS OF SCRIPTURE ON THIS SUBJECT.

These correspond, most perfectly, with the foregoing representations:-importing, that when the spiritual guides of the people are wise and faithful, the church is always blessed; and that when they

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »